Shifting Identities

1287 Relax and Succeed - Politeness is to human natureIf you don’t think you have different identities just try this: the next time you’re talking to someone you don’t like, imagine that someone you respect more than almost anyone is listening to the exchange.

If you do that earnestly you’ll find that you’ll choose more charitable and productive words and even friendlier body language with whoever you’re dealing with, even someone you don’t like.

But why would you be nicer? Or nice to someone you don’t like? Are you a brown-noser? A climber? A show off? Not really.

You would feel the urge to be nicer because, while you might possibly have been unusually nice to someone you don’t like anyway, what this thought experiment demonstrates is that we all subconsciously desire, more than anything, to belong.

This means that if someone we respected was watching us, we would naturally want to demonstrate our virtue to increase our value to them, and by extension their group. That doesn’t mean the virtue itself is entirely false. It simply means it was real virtue triggered by events.

Since a group of cooperating people will always out-compete a group of selfish people, we were built to be pack animals. This means that any action that ingratiates us to, or protects our status within, a group will be naturally appealing to a healthy human, even if only on a subconscious level. Sometimes it makes us feel good to help others and we do it for the joy we get, but it is also beneficial to be seen to be helping others, sincerely or otherwise. It builds community. Our impulse is natural.

But why would you be nicer? Or nice to someone you don’t like? Are you a brown-noser? A climber? A show off? Not really.

We have to keep in mind, chimps and bonobos are farther out on the evolutionary bush than we are, by millions of years. They are newer to evolution than we are. We are animals who are civilized, but still animals. We naturally feel safer in groups than alone, and that inclination in us explains everything from disenfranchised kids joining gangs, to why former team-sport athletes often struggle with depression after retirement. People need a tribe of some sort.

Having a place in a group is where we belong, and any feeling outside of that drives us toward belonging like thirst leads us to water. That’s why the world feels so harsh right now.

1287 Relax and Succeed - We shouldn’t build sharp tall fencesEveryone’s so judgmental that no one feels acceptable and that’s lead to insecurity that in turn leads to loneliness etc. etc. We shouldn’t use harsh judgments to build sharp, tall fences around ourselves when we are also stumbling through reality. We need each other, including each other’s forgiveness for our own inabilities.

There are two major ways to connect ourselves to others: the love we share that is comforting, and/or our value in terms of what we can contribute to their lives. Put another way, someone who protects us from dragons can get away with being grumpy; and being lovable is simply dragon-slaying love with a nicer role. But what binds us is a shared responsibility to each other. Denying that is painful, fulfilling it feels good, even if that involves fighting ‘dragons.’

Every role done well has value, and every tribe can carry a struggling member for a time. This is the value of community, and our ability to appreciate that value explains why we naturally become more aware of the value of kindness while we are in the presence of others.

Enjoy your days.

peace. s

According to Who?

1034-relax-and-succeed-just-because-you-are-rightYou’re right, you’re flawed. You don’t have a bunch of the downsides you think you do, but you do have some. Or, if you’re like some of us, you either can’t comprehend a lot of social choices; or you do but they feel inauthentic, which makes us appear even more flawed. I say appear because when we say we’re flawed; according to who?

Whether it happens in your mind or someone else’s, ephemeral opinions and beliefs about you should not be seen as being the same thing as the real you. Those are spectres in your mind. They are created in your theatre of thoughts and only you see your stories. Other people see theirs. So even if you’re happy with the way you live, you can be sure others won’t be.

Just like every religious person has a different idea of their religion, and just as a soldier, a politician and a bureaucrat will have somewhat different ideas about what it means to represent their nation, every person you meet and lots you’ll never meet will each have their own opinion of you and it will have far more to do with them than you.

1034-relax-and-succeed-dont-be-surprisedThat’s what society is: a big criss-cross intersection of all of our cooperative and conflicting ideas and beliefs. That is the landscape you navigate every day as an ego. That is the mess that things like traffic laws and communications protocols and democracy all try to loosely corral.

It isn’t possible for you to manage all of those varying personalities in their varying moods going through various things in their life. They’ll hide how they really feel, they’ll lie, they’ll unintentionally mislead you or you’ll just plain misunderstand them; but the more you try to understand it all the more complex it will all become. Thoughts beget thoughts.

You don’t have to get everyone to understand you and you don’t have to understand the universe you just have to understand yourself, and how you–like everyone–has thoughts about things but those thoughts are not those actual things. You can call rain bad but without it you’d die, so clearly it’s not actually all bad, but you can paint it that way for yourself inside your own head; just like people can paint you and just like you routinely paint them.

1034-relax-and-succeed-i-am-aware-that-i-am-less-than-some-people-preferFree yourself from caring about something meaningless. If they’re your boss and their opinion has some impact on you that you can’t control, then you can’t control that anyway so you’re better to not care about the opinion and be your usual self.

It’s like the friend of mine who rhetorically argued with every caller on a call-in radio show he had playing in his car. He said I should be upset too but I told him it didn’t look either enjoyable or productive. I asked him if he agreed that on every issue as big as the one being discussed, if most people would have their own opinion. He agreed. He also agreed that every opinion from crazy to crazy would be included. So I asked him, if he knew that, why he was surprised to hear them call in? Why was he angry? Why wasn’t he just going; oh it’s that guy.

Funnily enough that made simple sense to my friend and he could actually listen to the show seeing it that way. He felt better and he listened better too. That change spawned this blog. I hope you find this helpful too. That way, the next time someone meets you and doesn’t like you, you can just say I knew there had to be a bunch of you somewhere. It’s nice to meet you. Sorry to disappoint you with who I naturally am. I’ll do my best to not let that taint my view of you. It’s authentic, it’s open and caring, and trust me, people will think it’s weird. But who cares what they think anyway, right? 😉

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Casual Perfectionist

934 Relax and Succeed - I have taught that when error ceasesSubconsciously many modern people are striving for perfection. They won’t give themselves an off day; they’ll look at some skill they have and then compare themselves to the best person they know at that skill; they will rarely credit their successes and will primarily note their flaws. Sound like anyone you know?

Taken from the egocentric perspective of a disconnected being the quote above means that if you work at it hard enough some day you’ll have fixed yourself. You’ll be done. Complete. Finished. Impressive. But that’s not a healthy way to take the quote.

934 Relax and Succeed - How we see flowers“When error ceases” is the first portion I’d like you to focus on. They don’t mean stop making errors, they mean get rid of the idea that there is such a thing as an error. Is a driver making an error when they’re worried about all that weight and speed and skill so they’re looking just off the end of the hood? No. They’re learning. Learning is a series of missteps that helps us refine our path to success. So those aren’t errors. They’re just steps on a journey to knowledge.

Next look at “for what you are.” Because the healthiest way to dispel your idea that you can make mistakes is to not make a you at all. Just like the concept of an error, you too are just a collection of ideas in various contexts. Lose that idea of a Self and you lose the idea of mistakes because there’s no one to own them. On top of that you realize you never were an individual, you always were just a collection of constantly evolving beliefs that reeled through your consciousness and appeared to you on a screen called reality.

You know, you could just love where and who are right now. There are ways to be grateful in virtually any day. But to do that you have to give up the idea that you need to do something, become someone or obtain special knowledge. You have to know and fully believe that you are the best expert there has ever been for the living of your life.

934 Relax and Succeed - I am willing to let the love inAbandon your ideas that you need to be anything other than who you are. You hide because you think you need to be more. Maybe you hide with shyness. Maybe you’re always out there but all of your connections are intentionally superficial. Regardless, you do not need to hide anything or be anything. Yes there will be people who don’t like who you are. You want the right to not like some types of people too don’t you? So let them be and don’t think it’s your job to get them to like you or accept they’re wrong. Just be you and let your friends find you.

Take a big breath in and slowly let it out. Do it again. I’ll wait. I said I’ll wait. Breathe. Slow. Feel your body. Feel the air enter your lungs. Get Now. Those feelings, without the story of who they belong to, is the real you. Quiet that layer of judgmental desire-filled thought and free yourself to combine with the world in a strange but beautiful dance called life. It’s been waiting for you to love it because it wants to love you back.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.